Concert review: Keane

Uplifting English pop/rock band Keane performs at Strathmore in North Bethesda, Maryland.

VIENNA, Va., June 20, 2012 –Towards the middle of Keane’s set at the Strathmore Thursday night, lead singer Tom Chaplin made mention he felt the band should be playing orchestral music. In truth, his wry observation wasn’t that far off the mark, as the Strathmore is indeed an odd fit for a pop/rock act like Keane.

The primary reason for this is that Strathmore is a fixed seat venue, without anything in the way of standing room. It’s difficult to move around in this space and slightly awkward when people want to stand. For most of Keane’s contemporaries, it wouldn’t be a good fit at all. But Keane tends to be on the slightly softer side of the grandiose pop spectrum, so for them, at least, the venue wasn’t really too out of the ordinary.

On the other hand, another comment made by Chaplin highlighted how the band had turned their set and the venue on its ear. The inclination at a place like Strathmore is to sit down and relax because the seats are there, and the audience might as well use them. To Keane’s credit — or maybe to their fans credit — this was never in the equation Thursday evening. Everyone was on their feet by the first song, and a few songs later, most of the middle section of the audience was in motion. By the time Keane was winding down their set, the fixed, designated seating scheme had become something of an informal suggestion for anyone sitting near the isle.

Keane often gets compared to contemporaries Coldplay. That’s not exactly an inaccurate comparison, nor is it one the band should necessarily shy away from.  Both bands occupy space similar to one other in the pop/rock universe. But Keane seems to be more concerned with driving melodies than creating a mellow atmosphere.

Keane would never be confused with a hard rock band or some other type of dance band, but they are still very much intent on whipping their audience into a frenzy. If it ever felt as if the crowd wasn’t moving, whatever the situation with the venue, this band would have failed mightily. But that didn’t happen at Strathmore Thursday evening. Chaplin did an excellent job of interacting with the audience while clearly and crisply belting out each one of the songs in Keane’s set. Even with audience movement restricted, he still found a way—and took the time—to sweep toward the stage apron to meet and greet whatever random clump of excited female fans had decided to gather.

Keane is the epitome of a pop/rock group performing at the height of the genre’s form. Even if the crowd wasn’t unilaterally losing its collective mind over the band, it would be easy to see what has made them enduringly popular over the years. Even at the band’s periodic low points, they’ve still proven to be at least a competent set of performers who can easily put together a quality pop song where others often fail. When they’re at the top of their game, though—which included most of Thursday’s set, they’re fully capable of crafting soaring pop anthems that clearly resonate powerfully with their avid fans.

This is a band that has perfected the craft of pop/rock, and their mastery shows through in their live set. At no point is it easy or necessarily right to say Keane is reinventing the wheel of the genre or has even gone too far outside of their designated musical box. They are always fully aware of what they do well, and they’ve mastered their impact to an astonishing degree. Throughout the entire show, they never lean too far toward soft or hard, retaining an even balance of sounds and moods that sustains audience interest at all times throughout their set.

During last week’s performance, Keane remained in total control in each of their songs. As a result, they had the audience in the palm of their hand the entire night.  It actually helped that the audience was relatively fixed in their seats, as it helped them stay fixated on the band, which proved convincingly that Keane is a band that knows exactly who they are and what their fan base demands.

Stephen Bradley is an avid music listener. Read more of his work in Riffs at the Washington Times Communities.


This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Stephen Bradley

Stephen Bradley is an avid music listener and an occasional writer.  He grew up in the Washington DC area and has been embedded in the local music scene for years.  Currently he lives in Vienna, VA.   He enjoys bands that have been broken up for at least a decade.

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